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Sega's last great console.

Ron Alpert, Blogger

August 12, 2007

6 Min Read

  Today for the first time in a while i plugged in a Dreamcast controller and went to tow while i waited for my girlfriend to get her act together so we could have some lunch. I have often said that the DC was the last "cool"system that has been released, at least to my taste in video gaming.

   Sega has always been a cool company, in that they were always well known for producing a stable of relatively mainstream-accessible material and yet they'd always support that with a healthy string of somewhat offbeat material. I can't really think of any other developer even approaching their size which would be so well-known for going across the ma as they had. A couple come to mind.. Konamai at times, Capcom, certainly Nintendo... but Sega stands alone when it came to weird risky (flat out crazy-shit) across the board. Hardware, arcade, and generally franchising what they could, to different degrees of success. Ironically, in the end they've never wound up with that "one surefire franchise" which could stand the test of time and the process of evolution. Phantasy Star, Sonic, those are venerable series but they never maintained the integrity overall of Mario, Zelda, Street Fighter, Metal Gear Solid. Perhaps it could be argued in some cases (Virtua Fighter). But no one would argue that it's incredibly hard to maintain ANY franchise over the course of several generations - survival through one is tricky enough.

  My roomate at the time and I bought our DC after the thing dropped to @ $100. It hadn't been out for that long (a little over a full season?) it seemed and already it was getting long in the tooth, or rather, short to remain on the shelf. A shame, as it was finding its legs and no matter how you sliced it, what kind of gamer you were, it was shaping up to provide decent support in many categories. In fact I'd say it was one of the final systems to launch with a relatively decent lineup that didn't feel totally rushed out the door (ready to rumble, sonic adventure, hydro thunder, NFL, some others which escape me.. oh yeah Soul Caliber!) Yeah that's not all LAUNCH launch but close enough. Anyway when we picked it up, it wasn't long before I got my hands on virtua tennis - a game i could still have a blast with to this day. Titles like that don't really need several iterations if you ask me, the gfx are already good enough and the play control is completely spot-on.. I am not any kind of tennis fan, but games like that completely nail down for me the pure lighting-in-a-bottle of what is just fun about video games! My roomie and I would unwind at the end of the day with that game, I am one of those who gets very violently into it with the trash-talking and screaming and pretty much pummeling my own opponent with fists and such (on the couch beside me, not merely the screen). Yeah, so online has never been a big deal for me, I confess.

  I remember going out to "splurge" on a DC keyboard and a copy of Jet Grind Radio (after seeing it at E3, i knew I had to get my hands on that game!) We never used the keyboard for more than emailing, really (don't ask) though in hindsight I really wish I had picked up Typing of the Dead at some point. JGR proved to be really fun - also great to look at and listen to, even if i never did get terribly far into it (the slippery controls were kind of a buzzkill) but it didn't matter, that stuff was fun.

  I never really got much further with my DC, though some years later my buddy in NYC set me a spindle full of burns (oh so illegal). Think of me what you will--I can hear it now "It's guys like you who led to the Dreamcast being oboslete and Sega dropping out of hardware," oh ok let's not get too carried away. I wouldn't have bought anything else for it anyway, beyond what I did (well, maybe about 2 or 3 titles). I picked up American Pro Trucker today, for the first time in like 3 years - such a great idea for a game, even if somewhat sloppily conceived! I don't care. To me, games like that are what define a system - those are themes that SHOULD be made into video games. There's a reason you don't see more offbeat titles like that, and it's a shame. Crazy Taxi is another, a game I always considered to be a decent diversion but not one worthy of generating much fanfare.. for some reason the community embraced it, because it was unusual (same as above, really). Games like these came and went, and they were fun - captivating, if only for a few moments - but they've not left much in the way of an indelible mark on the gaming landscape. To me, that's sad - instead, we get umpteen versons of final fantasy or re-re-re-re-releases of ninja gaiden. Not to knock on the legacy of either such title, but GEEZ, it's not what you would call innovative or -shrug- "weird..."

  I would love to see Sega "come back" and toss their hat into hardware once again - I have no doubt that it will never happen, though. Frankly I am amazed they've done so well (and in such a style) as they have with their resulting publisher-only status, and like many I am curious to see what they will evolve into. It is reassuring to notice that they look back on their legacy as far as the types of titles they will continue to put out, anyway. I haven't forked over money for a Sega game in a long time (well.. not a new one) but even a picky gamer like me can find something that they've funded to wrap their teeth around. (If I had a PSP, I would likely be playing Crush right now!!!)

  Sega, as a company, is one I have much to say about - we have had a long history together (and presently, I admit they are the ones paying for the development of my current project). I will always hold them in high regard for what they released during the 16-bit years (in spite of the awful CD-Rom and extra-awful 32X nonsense and all of that). Sega Saturn is something i am just coming to appreciate now (better late then never) and I hope they can manage to stick around and maintain their relevance for a long time to come - gaming would never be the same without them!

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